Interim superintendent appointed to lead Escambia County schools

WKRG | By Cody Long | May 30, 2023

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — The Escambia County school board appointed Human Resources Director Keith Leonard to be interim superintendent starting Thursday. Dr. Tim Smith was fired on May 16.

“We’re going to continue to work on the tree and the branches of the tree by getting to the roots and we’re going to work on the foundation of the Escambia County School District,” Leonard said. “You can count on it now. You can count on it tomorrow.”

“For Ms. Payne not to even be considered, for her name not to even come up, that is almost an embarrassment for this board…I was totally embarrassed,” one woman said.

Payne spoke up during the meeting calling for unity.

“Let’s do this together,” she said. “Enough is enough.”

She said she never applied for the position like Leonard did in 2020 and she believes she is where she’s meant to be right now.

“Now we got work to do,” Payne said. “I can serve. I’ll serve under Mr. Leonoard. I’ll serve under whoever you put there.”

This appointment comes two weeks after a surprise motion and vote to fire Dr. Tim Smith.

Attorney Mary Williams showed up to tell the board they might be going to court because there should’ve been discussion openly before the vote.

“Revoke your decision because I’m not ready to move on,” Williams said. “You have violated the law. You have violated the Sunshine Law because by all accounts, you had to have made a decision or discussed this.”

Dr. Smith’s last day is Wednesday. Leonard’s contract runs through June 30, 2024 to give the board enough time to appoint a permanent superintendent.

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